It was a topsy-turvy harvest in California, especially the Napa & Sonoma Valleys, as well as the Central Coast (updates to follow). There were no constants—except some crazy weather patterns. And things weren’t much different in other parts of the States and Canada.
Adam Schulz reported in from the Pacific Northwest:
The Washington harvest was severely affected by a winter freeze, pre-Thanksgiving, in 2011. The estimated total crop was down across Washington 20 to 25 percent. Rains through June and cool temperatures had vineyard managers and winemakers alike concerned about ripening by October. September, luckily, was the warmest September in 35 years, and sped ripening along. A warmer than usual October allowed most varietals in conservatively cropped viticultural situations to reach full physiological ripeness. Brix levels ran about two full Brix lower than usual, but flavor development was excellent, and vegetal flavors were absent in low tonnage situations. Many winemakers say that their wines will be more low-alcohol, high-acid, like those of the Bordeaux vineyards with whom they share a latitudinal parallel.
Oregon experienced their second consecutive cool vintage. Fruit set was optimized by the cool and rainy spring. The warm August and September proved a boon for Oregonian vintners, and cluster/color thinning done during veraison helped to facilitate ripening. Many winemakers praised the flavor development and racy acidity, predicting these wines will be longer lived than some of their hotter vintage counterparts.
In southern Ontario, Mario Felx says that harvest 2011 will go down in the history books as one wild ride, with rain, heat and even more rain:
Spring began with constant rain and remained cold and wet. Add to that a late bud break, and the vintage looked like it was heading for disaster. July and August were exceptionally warm and dry. Everything began to look good as September approached, and winemakers anticipated repeating the wonderful vintage of 2010, only to face more heavy rain. Wineries were caught in the unenviable position of picking between periods of rain. Grapes that needed extended sun time exposure suffered more, though most winemakers agreed 2011 would be a good vintage for Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer and Cabernet Sauvignon.